You’re in the thick of the academic semester, Moose. Maybe your Princeton experience thus far has met or exceeded all of your expectations. If so, that’s great and I would definitely put you in the category of #blessed 😇. For most students, the college journey is filled with plenty of twists and turns. Today, I want to focus on those occasions when you encounter disappointment. I raise this topic now because I have been listening to you and I know you’re awaiting decisions on a variety of important matters, including grades. There is the very real possibility that you won’t get exactly what you were hoping for. This got me thinking about useful strategies for managing disappointment or taming self-criticism that may result from not getting the reassurance you hoped for.

The apocryphal phrase “failure is not an option” works well in movies, documentaries, and books about NASA and Mission Control. But, it has no useful place in your life. In fact, I’m here to remind you that failure is an option. It is 100% normal to not achieve a goal or milestone you set for yourself. You will inevitably be deterred or disappointed at some point. I invite you to consider all the ways in which you can learn from the experience. You’ll be glad you did. The next time you face some kind of failure or rejection you will be stronger and more capable of managing your feelings and bouncing back.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, I am here to remind you that you are not alone. Starting Wednesday, I will share daily posts on Mathey.live, IG (MatheyCollege) and FB, featuring the non-success narratives from members in our community whom you may trust and admire. A new post will be promoted most days during the month of October.

Please read on for tips on how to practice good coping skills.

Remember, if you are too tough on yourself, you run the risk of reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and eroding self-confidence. Allow me to highlight the many ways in which you can avoid this trap, Moose!

Unravel your inner critic.

Identify and challenge unhelpful assumptions. If you judge yourself to be not smart enough, unlikable, uncool, or whatever, take a moment to examine the validity of his statement. Is it a fact or an opinion? Remember: Just because you see yourself a certain way, doesn't mean you’re right. You can rewrite the script by creating more helpful responses to life’s setbacks.

Expect slip-ups and get right back on track.

Remember that the top performers in any field, whether it is athletics, the business world, the arts, or academics all face rejection. Instead of nurturing disappointment, these high achievers immediately get back on track. So, give yourself credit for what you are doing right. For those instances when you fall short, learn what you can and then give it another go in ways that makes sense to you. It’s worth it.

Self-compassion is an antidote to self-criticism.

Self-criticism can become a reflexive habit, and many people don’t even notice how often they engage in it. Ask, “How helpful is it to speak so harshly to myself? Would I speak this way to a dear friend?”

And finally:

  • Keep in mind that you’ve overcome other life challenges, and you can get through this one, too.

  • Remember to take care of yourselves and each other, and make time to relax and decompress. If you need help and aren’t sure where to turn, please reach out to me and I will help you make the right connection.

Thinking of you,

Dr. Cepin